Hwang Chang-gyu, chairman of the country’s leading mobile carrier KT Corp., will be questioned on Tuesday by South Korean police over his alleged involvement in the company’s illegal funding to lawmakers, police said Monday.
Hwang is suspected of ordering or at least being briefed of the illegal political funding made with corporate money worth 430 million won ($400,279) to some 90 lawmakers during 2014 to 2017. Under the current law, registered corporations or groups are banned from donating money to politicians in the country. Police suspect that KT had made the donations under many names of its former and incumbent executives to disguise the corporate donations as personal ones.
Police also believe that the money was given to a political committee handling legislation related to the establishment of online-only banks and lawmakers dealing with telecommunications law. KT is one of the major stakeholders of the country’s first online-only bank K-Bank that launched last year.
Police in January already raided KT headquarters and subsidiaries amid suspicion that the company executives had bought gift vouchers in bulk and cashed them out to create a slush fund to make the donations. It has also been questioning several former and incumbent executives as part of the probe.
Summoning Hwang indicates that police has obtained substantial proof to conclude the related investigation soon, experts said.
This is not the first time KT has been involved in bribery scandals. The company was also embroiled in the bribery scandal related to impeached President Park Geun-hye as it had donated 1.8 billion won to the foundations led by her close friend Choi Soon-sil in 2015-2016 and hired Choi’s acquaintance as an executive.
While endorsing his second term as KT’s chief executive last year for his contribution in a dramatic turnaround in the company’s earnings, shareholders demanded of him to break shady ties with politics and establish more transparent and independent corporate governance. Hwang’s second term ends in 2020.
Shares of KT ended Monday at 26,950 won, up 0.94 percent from the previous session.
By Seo Dong-chul and Choi Mira
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]